Welcome to the Third Session of the Forty-Third Synod of the Diocese of Adelaide. As we gather we acknowledge that we are meeting on the land of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains, and acknowledge and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and their relationship with the land. We acknowledge the impact European settlement had and continues to have on the first peoples of this land, and we continue to seek and pray for reconciliation. We will hear of some of the efforts made towards reconciliation in the course of this Synod.
Given this is the third session of the Synod I expect most of us have been here before. I am conscious though that for at least two people this is their first Synod or their first Synod in their current role. The first of those is the Registrar and Secretary of Synod Amanda Harfield, who began in January this year. In her first ten months Amanda has done a really great job, so we not only welcome you Amanda officially to your first Synod as Registrar and Secretary of Synod, we thank you too. The second person to welcome is the newly minted chancellor Philip Adams. Philip, we welcome you and I especially thank you for agreeing to serve in this way.
Since we last met much has happened in the Diocese and the wider Australian community. This time last year voting was open for the postal ballot concerning a change in the Marriage Act to allow same gender couples to marry in Australia. Seventy-nine point five percent of people eligible to participate in the voluntary ballot did so, and 61.6% voted ‘yes’ to a change, with 38.4% voting ‘no’. Consequently, the Marriage Act was amended so the definition of marriage is the union between two persons instead of the union between a man and a woman, with the first same gender marriages in Australia occurring in January this year.
In the midst of the public debate on a possible change to the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act, the General Synod of the Anglican church of Australia last September passed a resolution, and I will put it up on the screen. There is quite a lot to the resolution, so it will need to go up in parts.
The General Synod –
(i) recognises that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman, and further,
(ii) recognises that this has been the subject of several General Synod resolutions over the past fifteen years, and also
(iii) recognises that the nature of marriage is the subject of ongoing conversation within the church and wider community and that we need to listen to each other with care and respect, and
(iv) acknowledges the experiences and genuine concerns of LGBTIQ+ people within the church and the community, and therefore
(v) asks the Doctrine Commission to facilitate a respectful conversation in our church by means of a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships that explores Scriptural and theological issues relating to:
a. The doctrine of marriage expressed in the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia
b. Our current Australian context, exploring the relationship between the State’s definition of marriage and the church’s doctrine of marriage
c. Key Old Testament and New Testament texts on sex, marriage and friendship
d. Scripture and hermeneutics
e. A theology of blessing
f. A theology of desire
g. Godly disagreement on this issue
h. The case for and against same-sex marriage and/or the blessing of same-sex unions.
There are a number of important parts to this resolution. First, it restates what is the doctrine of our church, that marriage is an exclusive and life-long union between a man and a woman. Our marriage liturgies reflect that understanding, and that’s why Anglican clergy are not able to officiate at a same gender marriage, nor bless a same gender marriage.
Second, it recognises that the nature of marriage is the subject of ongoing conversation within the church and wider community, and that we need to listen to each other with care and respect, and third, acknowledges the experiences and genuine concerns of LGBTIQ+ people within the church and the community.
That resolution was passed at General Synod well before the ballot was finalised last year, and after the results of the ballot where nearly 80% of voters chose to vote, and nearly two thirds of them voted in favour of a change, it might be said the discussion on marriage in the community is done and dusted. That is not the case in the Anglican Church of Australia. And so, by the resolution the General Synod asks the Doctrine Commission of General Synod to facilitate a collection of essays on various topics related to same gender relationships and the church, including the blessing of same sex unions. That work has not yet been completed nor has work by the Church Law Commission requested by the Standing Committee of General Synod.
In the meantime, the call in the resolution to listen to each other with care and respect is important and timely. You will know from the business paper that a couple of motions about same gender relationships will be discussed this weekend, and by the nature of the topic those motions may well raise emotions and generate heart felt debate. I ask that as we consider those motions we try very hard to have the debate carefully and respectfully. For us as people who seek to represent God to the wider community the manner in which we make decisions is as important as the decisions themselves.
Also last December, the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was tabled in the federal parliament. One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission was the establishment of an independent redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions. The Federal government accepted that recommendation and a scheme has been established beginning operation on the first of July this year. In order for a claim to be made through the scheme two things have to happen: first, the State needs to pass legislation referring powers to the Commonwealth so that institutions in the state can participate in the scheme, and second, institutions need to sign up to the scheme.
The South Australian government passed its legislation in September and that will come into effect in the first half of next year. The Diocesan Council of this Diocese has resolved to join the redress scheme, and has resolved to join via the Anglican representative group established by the General Synod. We have no idea how many claims might be made against the Synod, only time will tell, but we remain committed to responding well to survivors of child sexual abuse that happened within our context. Alongside the national redress scheme, the Healing Steps program which has been running in this diocese for some years will continue.
You will have heard in the media that some dioceses in the Australian church have signalled the sale of church property to help pay for redress. At this stage the Diocesan Council has not considered that avenue.
I am conscious that the Prime Minister will be making an apology to survivors, victims and families of those who have suffered child sexual abuse on Monday to coincide with National Children’s Week. I am also conscious of criticism by survivors that apologies are not enough. What is required is action. Action to address redress. Action to deal with perpetrators. Action to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring.
In the light of the third call to action we passed without dissent at last year’s Synod a number of pieces of General Synod legislation aimed at providing consistent standards and requirements across the church in relation to child safety. The adoption of consistent national standards was another recommendation of the Royal Commission.
One of the standards included in that legislation concerns screening and training. This Diocese has a number of elements to its screening and training regime and these comply with the national standards and state legislation. Each element must be renewed every three years.
Having established standards and policies it is of course vital that they are adhered to. Having policies and not following them does little for the safety of children and vulnerable people and does absolutely nothing to demonstrate that the Church is worthy of community trust when it comes to the safety of children and vulnerable people. I want to thank the people of the Diocese who are taking the safety of children and vulnerable people so seriously, doing the training and undergoing the screening.
I know this involves time and effort and inconvenience, but this absolute attention to training and screening is part of developing and continuing a church culture where the safety of children and vulnerable people is paramount and so is worth our inconvenience. To do so is nothing less than obeying Christ our Lord.
As part of demonstrating our commitment to developing this church culture the legislation we passed last year includes the provision of an independent audit against the screening and training standards we have agreed to, with the results of that audit being published on the General Synod website.
I want to also pay tribute to the staff of the Diocesan office who have worked even harder this year to make sure our records are accurate, and to carry out the processing of safer ministry applications as efficiently as possible with what is a small office team.
Since we last met the vision statement and ministry priorities for the Diocese have been confirmed. Vision 2022 is:
We will be a Diocese of flourishing Anglican Communities, united and connected, whose members are confident and competent to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And our four ministry priorities through to 2022 are:
1. Growth in Discipleship
2. Leadership Development
3. Flourishing Churches
4. Innovation and Advocacy
It was great to be able to introduce Vision 2022 including the ministry priorities at the clergy conference this year, and then at the six lay leaders meetings where nearly 200 lay leaders gathered.
A key question as we consider this vision statement and ministry priorities is - why? We can have the most wondrous vision statement in the world but still lack the motivation to actually do anything about it. Perhaps that’s why so many well-crafted strategic plans sit on a shelf and don’t lead to any change. ‘Why’, then becomes pretty important. Why do we think that it’s a good idea to be a diocese of flourishing Anglican communities, united and connected, whose members are competent and confident to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit?
For me the answer to ‘why’ lies in the concept of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a way to describe a reality where all creation is the way it was created by God to be. Where God is recognised, worshipped and revered as God, and where people know a peaceful connection with God through Jesus Christ. A world where humans exercise their vocation of reflecting the praise of creation to God, and the love of God to all of creation, and so where people experience community and belonging. Where the blessings are shared so all have enough. Where the wider creation is cared for as a ministry of stewardship. We see this future embodied in the life of Jesus Christ. According to Mark 1.15-in Jesus the kingdom of God has come close.
God will bring this future into being, but its foretaste can be experienced now though not fully. It’s as if we are looking ‘through a glass dimly’, but we can get some idea, and we can help this be the case for others, so others might get hold of what God is doing and join in.
The more our Anglican communities are flourishing in the power of the Holy Spirit, the more we are united and connected in the power of the Holy Spirit, the more we live as competent and confident disciples of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, the more our Anglican communities will become places where the vision of God is not just proclaimed in words but experienced, and those Anglican communities will spread the reflection of God to people who haven’t seen it yet, and those Anglican communities will help shape the wider community so the kingdom of God is experienced now more and more.
In Jesus the kingdom of God has come close, and I want to see the kingdom more and reflected in our community. This is clearly the hope and will of God, so I want to participate out of reverence, loyalty and obedience to God. That’s my ‘why’.
I am encouraged by 1 Corinthians 15.58 where Paul says ‘Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain’.
We may or may not see results of our participation in the mission of God pointing to the kingdom of God, but ‘in the Lord our labour is not in vain’.
There is a great deal to be done in terms of enacting Vision 2022. We are part way through a one-year implementation plan put together fairly quickly after Vision 2022 was adopted in April this year. A three-year implementation plan is being developed and will be finalised in time for the 2019-2020 budget. There will be opportunity this afternoon in a session led by Amanda Harfield for members of Synod to have input into that plan. We are also in the process of considering the ministry units to make sure our structures serve the priorities we have identified.
We anticipate the three- year plan will be finalised by May next year, but I can today announce a part of it.
You will know of the growth and development and need of the Northern part of the Diocese. The population is growing and is forecast to grow significantly in coming decades. In terms of area, the City of Playford is very large, and the Anglican church is not well represented there, and so Playford and the emerging developments to the north and north-west of Playford need to become an area of priority for us. In the process of addressing that strategic priority leadership will be critical. To begin to address this need Bishop Tim Harris will become Bishop Missioner to Playford and Parish Priest of the Parish of Elizabeth. Tim will continue as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, but his episcopal ministry will be focussed on Playford. Bishop Tim will take up this new full- time role in December this year, and he and Fiona and John will move to the Playford area in due course. Bishop Tim feels strongly called to this new ministry and I am grateful to God for the vision Bishop Tim has been given for ministry in the North, and I am grateful to Tim and Fiona that they have the faith and courage to take it up. Bishop Tim’s appointment as Parish Priest will be funded by the parish with support from Anglicare. I anticipate there will be no material contribution from the Synod for the appointment. I am grateful for the continuing support of AnglicareSA for the parish of Elizabeth and ministry generally in the Northern part of the Diocese.
There is already good collaboration in Playford between AnglicareSA, St Columba College, Elizabeth Parish and Elizabeth Downs Parish. Over the next few years, we will look to expand the ministry team so that we can develop more churches, congregations and fellowships in the city of Playford and further North and North West.
In my view the work of caring for clergy and encouraging lay leaders in parishes as well as those ministering in schools and chaplaincies in the Diocese needs two full time bishops focused on it. Bishop Chris is an important part of the team, but his primary episcopal role is as National Aboriginal Bishop. It is my hope to be able to appoint a full time Assistant Bishop next year to continue Bishop Tim’s current Assistant Bishop role and replace him in that.
Another important part of implementing Vision 2022 is St Barnabas College. If you have a look at the four ministry priorities identified as part of the vision St Barnabas will be critical in the implementation of them. In my address to the College commencement service in February this year I outlined my vision for the next phase of the life of the College. The bottom line is St Barnabas needs to serve Vision 2022. The College needs to be able to train and prepare people for ordained ministry across the breadth of the Diocese. The College needs to be a part of the continuing post ordination education program for the Diocese. The College needs to identify, develop and run training courses and programs for lay ministry and discipleship training. The College Council is in the process of identifying the steps that need to be taken to be the College for ministry for Vision 2022. I am grateful to The Reverend Dr Don Owers who has agreed to serve as the College principal through until the end of 2019. Don’s steady leadership will enable the College to be ready to move to its next stage of ministry.
Members of Synod might be aware that the process of recruiting a Ministry Development Officer to work with parishes to assist them in their flourishing is underway. I believe the MDO needs to be a part of the College team so that parish needs are clearly seen by the College, and so that there can be a real dialogue between the theoretical and the practical aspects of training for ministry.
It is plain that if we are going to make any great difference and actually see Anglican communities flourishing more we will need more resources. That will involve offering the people of the Diocese opportunities to use their gifts for ministry. It will involve operating efficiently. It will involve calling for generosity. We will need to look at the physical assets that are part of the Diocese to see how we can make best use of them, including releasing the value of some. As part of that process I think we should look seriously at selling Bishop’s Court lock stock and barrel. I know that this has been an almost endless discussion beginning in the early 1900’s but I think the time has come to make some hard decisions and I anticipate a proposal coming to Synod next year. In the face of the urgent need for us to move to growth we need to release resources so as to reduce the pressure of assessments on parishes, and increase the ministry we are able to fund. It is not appropriate in my view for the value of Bishop’s Court to remain locked up while the ministry needs of the Diocese are so significant. My view is that the property should be sold, a smaller bishops house purchased, and the remainder of the sale proceeds invested in the See trust. The proceeds of that investment could offset the costs of the bishops’ ministry, relieving pressure on the Synod budget and allowing for resources to be deployed for ministry which allows us to move towards implementing Vision 2022.
Flourishing Anglican Communities
It is very easy for documents like vision statements to sit on a shelf and not actually affect anything much. That’s certainly not what I want for Vision 2022. So as part of considering the vision and living it out, we will over the next three years take a part of the vision as our theme for Synod. The theme this year is flourishing Anglican communities. Our vision says that our vision and our yearning is to be a diocese of flourishing Anglican communities in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This includes existing parishes but will include Anglican congregations and communities which haven’t been established yet, and I hope will include in time Anglican schools and where appropriate Anglicare. The word flourish means to grow or develop successfully and has the feel and sound of health and vitality. We want our Anglican communities to be healthy and growing, effective and vital. The vision statement makes it clear that developing and being flourishing Anglican communities will only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are no levers we can pull which will automatically see our Anglican communities flourish. That’s why prayer is so important. I have been very encouraged by the number of individuals and communities that are regularly praying the prayer for growth we produced last year. It is completely right to pray for growth in the four areas included in that prayer; that more people might come to trust Jesus, that the depth of our discipleship will grow, that we might grow in terms of no strings attached service offered to the wider community, and that we will grow in generosity with all that God has given to us look after. Prayer is not an automatic lever either but connects us with the will of God and so apart from anything else changes us and aligns us with the life of God.
Please continue to pray for growth that we might be flourishing communities in the power of the Holy Spirit.
While there are no automatic levers, experience and research has given us some pointers to elements which might be helpful in order to flourish. So, for instance, the Natural Church Development research carried out now over many years right across the globe points to the following elements being important for a healthy church:
· Holistic small groups
· Loving relationships
· Empowering leadership
· Effective structures
· Gift based ministry
· Need oriented evangelism
· Inspiring worship service
· Passionate spirituality.
In 2014 the report from the Church of England called From Anecdote to Evidence was published. Following on from that report is a resource called From Evidence to Action. The English research says that a growing church is likely to:
1. Have a clear mission and purpose where clergy and congregations are intentional about growth
2. Understand its context, actively engage with it and with those who might not currently go to church
3. Have clergy and lay leaders who innovate, envision and motivate people
4. Be willing to self-reflect, change and adapt according to its context
5. Nurture disciples
6. Be welcoming and build on loving relationships with people
7. Actively engage children and young people
8. Have lay people as well as ordained clergy active in leadership and other roles.
Mark Connor in his book ‘Transforming Your Church’ suggests the following are important:
1. Fervent prayer
2. Passionate outreach
3. Loving relationships
4. Empowering leaders
5. Mobilised believers
6. United communities
7. Generational baton passing.
You will notice there are some common elements and concepts in those lists. They are worth reflecting on and acting on as we seek to help our Anglican communities to flourish.
If we are going to increase our flourishing planning will be necessary. I suggested last year in my address to Synod that it would be helpful for each community to develop a mission action plan, and I am really pleased to know that a number have already done that and more are in the process.
We have sold more than sixty of these really helpful books. The title says it all really-How to do Mission Action Planning. These are on sale from places like www.bookdepository.com, and there are also some copies for sale at Synod. It’s not having a mission action plan that counts - you know the piece of paper, no matter how attractive it is. What counts is the quality of the planning process and the quality of the implementation. Mission action plans should not be complicated. Most of our communities are already busy and piles of unachievable aspirational goals just leads to failure. The keys to a successful plan are: pray, do a plan, keep it simple, have a go and keep reviewing.
Research in the UK by Bob Jackson and published in- What Makes Churches Grow (2015) indicates that churches with a Mission Action Plan are more likely to be growing. So, for instance, Jackson says of London diocese that ‘Mission Action Planning was an integral part of the culture shift that reversed the trend of decline and continues to be up to the present’ (78).
I encourage Anglican communities which have not started the process of mission action planning to consider doing so. If you have completed a mission action plan make sure the plan is reviewed each year to keep the ball rolling.
I have found past twelve months a very encouraging and positive time in the Diocese. Many people contribute in so many different ways to our ministry life and I want to say thank you. Lay people take up leadership and ministry responsibilities in parishes, on diocesan committees and here at Synod. Clergy serve faithfully and well in parishes, in chaplaincies and in schools. It has been great to work with the Area Deans and Archdeacons as they have carried out their extra tasks. I want to thank especially Gwilym Henry-Edwards for his service as Archdeacon of The City of Adelaide and The Port as he retires from that role. Gwilym has served in this way since November 2015. Happily, he will continue to minister at Port Adelaide. Thank you to all who serve to make the Diocese effective in its ministry of serving the mission of God.
A little while ago I was reading Bishop Short’s pastoral address from the 1856 Synod, the second Synod held in Adelaide, and he was reflecting on the purpose of Synod, which is significant because in many ways he invented the modern form of the Anglican synod, and he said this - remember that the members of Synod in 1856 were all men:
‘It would be to take a low and false view of the true end of synod meetings, if the mere transaction of ecclesiastical business, the raising of funds, or the maintenance of discipline, were considered to be their highest and holiest purpose. It is not so. The mutual encouragement thus afforded, both to the clergy and laity, the sense of individual responsibility brought home by prominence of position in the church, the feeling of brotherhood in the gospel of Christ, the interchange of sentiment between clergy and laity and the better acquaintance with the ministry by the people, plainly indicate the real objects of such occasional meetings; besides the diffusion of valuable information, the furtherance of general Church measures and the removal of erroneous impressions. They cultivate in short, the Church feeling of brotherly union and co-operation, as opposed to isolated, selfish, individual religion’.
Bishop Short’s vision for Synod was immensely positive. May our time together this weekend reflect that vision and contribute to the building up of the kingdom of God. To quote St Paul once again: ‘Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain’ (1 Cor 15.58).